Assessment without levels – working with special schools

Well, what a busy week it was last week for the Trace team!

Both Monday and Friday saw a number of staff from schools keen to get started on using Trace in their setting being trained on how to set up a sequence of work, how to assess against the objectives within those sequences, and how this then translates to the ‘report’ section, identifying attainment on a whole-school level, in year groups, individual classes, and for each individual child.

Two comments that were consistently shared by all of those who were trained was the fact that the tool was extremely user-friendly, and that it allowed for individual practitioners to easily identify targets for individual pupils, or what objectives might be included in an intervention for any children still emerging on an objective.

We added P levels to Trace in March so it is now ideal for special schools to use. We were really grateful to have some great feedback from Longwill School for the Deaf.  Here’s a snap-shot of what they thought:

‘Very straightforward…For a technophobe, I’m finding the format one of the best and easiest to follow.  Its format helps us to be very focused on what we need to teach…’

‘Clicking to add statements is simple, as is sharing and adding statements at a later date.’

‘It is very easy to read steps of the National Curriculum which made it easy to focus and apply ideas, go back, add or delete at the touch of a button.  Far less stressful than ploughing through huge chunks of reading!’

‘(For EYFS practitioners), using Trace to focus upon targets set and collating evidence for that has proved useful, and the quick assessment tool is invaluable to track and collate evidence for each pupil.’

Not only did the staff at Longwill clearly outline some fantastic positives of the tool, they also made some valuable suggestions as to how the tool could be developed.  We really do appreciate any suggestions that schools make as to how Trace can be developed; the beauty of Trace is that it CAN and DOES adapt based on the needs of the schools using the tool!

So, a big ‘Thank You’ to Carol Sutton and all of the staff at Longwill who provided the feedback – very much appreciated!

As for this week, it’s again going to be a busy one!

Two schools that have just signed up are already in the position to have initial training, so the team will be visiting both Thornton Primary School and Marlborough Infant and Nursery School and allowing the staff to access their own cohorts and classes so that the training really is personalised for the individual school.  We look forward to meeting the staff at both schools during these twilight sessions.

On Friday, key practitioners from a number of Trace schools will be meeting in order to evaluate the ‘Report’ section of the tool, share how they are using this section of the tool in their setting, identify the successes of this section, and also identify a common understanding as to how the section could be further developed.  This meeting will be extremely valuable in moving Trace forward, and so we thank in advance those who have agreed to attend for their input and considered ideas.

Finally, we will be looking at how Trace can be marketed to a wider audience; the more schools that are using the facility, the greater the opportunity for schools to work as a community, together with other Trace users, talking a common language.

So, if any current Trace users know of a school that is currently unsure as to which path to follow with regards a ‘Design, Assessment & Reporting’ tool, please do give them a nudge down the Trace road!!  Or, if there are any practitioners reading this thinking, ‘How are we tackling ‘life without levels’ at our setting?’, please get in contact; We would be more than willing to meet with any potential new users and demonstrate what a brilliant tool Trace is!

For more info on Trace please contact


Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural development and Fundamental British Values – training for schools

Audience: Members of Senior Leadership teams, governors, Subject leads for Religious Education and Citizenship

The Ofsted framework for School Inspection launched in September 2014 saw changes for the way in which Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) Development fits into the framework.

SMSC now stands alone as a key judgement relating to the wider aspect of pupils’ development’.  Alan Brine Ofsted’s National Adviser for RE. 

Within this framework is the duty to promote Fundamental British Values; democracy, the rule of law and promoting respect for other faiths and beliefs.

Aim: This course aims to provide you with the necessary knowledge, skills and understanding to develop this area within your school with the view that if SMSC development is strong then the other four aspects of the new inspection framework are more likely to be good or better.

By the end of the course participants will have:

  • Practical ideas and approaches to stimulate and impact upon SMSC development and Fundamental British Values across their school leading to improvements in pupil achievement, teaching and learning, behaviour as well as in leadership and management
  • Support to develop SMSC through leadership at all levels
  • Support in completing and Fundamental British Values audit proforma for SMSC

Date: 4th June 2015

Time: 09:00 – 16:00

Location: Warwick House, 10 Edward Street, Birmingham, B1 2RX

Price: £240

Facilitators: Niall Crawford & Simone Whitehouse

To book a place please email

Would you like to become an Every Child Counts (ECC) Trainer for Literacy

Every Child Counts aims to raise achievement in Literacy.  It does this through targeted intervention support for children who struggle with reading and writing and through wider support for the teaching of literacy to all children.

Services For Education are seeking to recruit a school based lead trainer for ECC Literacy who, with the support and agreement of their school, would undertake appropriate professional development provided by Edge Hill University and funded by ourselves.  In return the lead trainer would be expected to resource and deliver the literacy programmes for which they have been trained as set out by the university and agreed with ourselves and the school.  Whilst we would cover the cost of the trainer for the days on which they deliver the programme/s we would expect the school to cover the oncosts of the PD and related expenses such as travel and accommodation.

The role of an Every Child Counts Trainer

As an Every Child Counts Trainer, your responsibilities are to:

  • Provide Every Child Counts training and support for schools, teachers and teaching assistants in accordance with standards and guidance set out by Edge Hill University
  • Maintain the quality of Every Child Counts through local monitoring and evaluation, through recommendations for accreditation and by reporting to and liaising with the University
  • Maintain your own accreditation as an ECC Trainer by meeting the relevant standards for trainers (please refer to attached standards)

You will be registered as an ECC Trainer with the University by Services for Education, for one or more of the following programmes:

  • Phonics Counts
  • Project X CODE
  • Better Reading Support Partners
  • 1stClass@Writing

The schools that you support will be arranged by Services for Education, with your support as required in recruiting these schools.

Support from Edge Hill University

In addition to support from Services For Education, you will be supported by the University for each intervention for which you are registered, including through:

  • Face-to-face professional development events for ECC trainers, led by national advisers
  • Training and professional development programmes and materials that you can deliver to ECC schools and staff
  • Personal support and field visits from a named ECC National Adviser
  • Assessment of your achievement and maintenance of the standards for Every Child Counts Trainers, with accreditation and certification if successful
  • Promotional materials that you can use to help you to recruit schools to your courses
  • Access to dedicated telephone and email support and to password protected website information and resources

For further information or to express your interest in this role please contact Denise Harris by email  by Monday 18th May 2015. Please note expressions of interest must be supported by an accompanying Head Teacher statement.

The journey of one school into a no-levels world!

Rob Meadows, Deputy Headteacher at Audley Primary School in Birmingham talks about how the school addressed ‘life-without-levels’ through the use of the Trace online curriculum design and assessment tool.

Once we were aware of the changes to how assessment was to be carried out, with the abolishment of levels, we were in an unknown area.  It is always essential to be able to assess children’s attainment and progress in order to move children’s learning forward, but without a tool to do this, things became quite vague.  Add in a new curriculum, and you could see why some practitioners might have become worried!

At Audley, Trace came along at just the right time!  Having been invited from near the outset of its development, we were very much involved in the move towards ‘Assessment without Levels’ as a Trace advocate, and it very much matched our school’s belief that assessments should be personalised, focused upon what has been designed and taught, and then in turn should inform future planning.

And, in a nutshell, that’s the beauty of Trace, in that it allows class teachers to do just that.

We began by introducing the tool to Senior Leaders in the school who would need to be able to access and use it on a daily basis.  Feedback was very favourable, as the staff who were shown Trace could see the link between the design and assessment stages.  Other elements that our staff members were impressed by was the fact that they could make snapshot judgements if a child demonstrated something that hadn’t necessarily been planned for (and when working with children, this can often be the case!) – the ‘Quick Assessment’ tool was of great value therefore.  Furthermore, the ability to add evidence to individual pupil’s ongoing assessments freed them from the past rigours of photocopying whiteboards, note-taking in mark books, keeping portfolios of work in folders.  A quick note, photograph, download later, the evidence was easily matched to the, there for all to see.

Once Year Group Leaders had had the opportunity to trial Trace, we held a very successful training session with all staff, all at very different stages in their careers, with different perceptions on assessment, and with a wide level of technological knowhow!  Here, the staff were shown how to use the design and assessment part of the tool to link in with their Medium Term planning, so that the curriculum objectives were embedded into their overview of the teaching.  And, on the whole, teachers were happy!!  With a lot of changes in teaching, this could have been just another curveball that could have seen teachers confused, but instead, the teachers left with a tool that they could use, and use relatively easily; even those who find technology baffling!

After a term of use, it was clear that Trace allowed for the flexibility of each Year Group to design sequences of work as they saw fit.  There was not a ring-fence dictating how things were completed.  Some cohorts designed sequences that lasted the term, others broke designs into subjects, some into smaller, bite-sized chunks covering 2 or 3 weeks.  However, what was common was that the teachers were becoming extremely confident with using the new curriculum objectives, day-in, day-out; Trace was facilitating their ability to understand the expectations within their Year Group.

Carrying out assessments was more of a hurdle initially.  What constituted ‘can-do’ expected?  Was a child exceeding?  How would teachers demonstrate exceeding if they felt a child was against a specific objective?  After the first analysis of assessments, I was able to outline to colleagues what elements of their practice, with regards completing assessments, could do with being developed.  For example, in one Year Group, there was a discrepancy in staff assessing as ‘exceeded’; some colleagues had many children exceeding, others had few, or none at all.  This consequently led to moderation within the Year Group, ensuring that all teachers were consistent with their understanding of what exceeding looked like.

More recently, staff have completed a second term’s use of Trace, and, in terms of assessment, many of the ‘teething problems’ have been eradicated.  Staff are now much more confident both in their accuracy and consistency of judgements.  They are constantly making adaptations to sequence designs that take into account assessments that are being carried out, meaning that Trace is very much supporting the staff in recognising the gaps in learning.

Personally, as Assessment Co-ordinator at Audley, there have been two major things that have impressed me with regards to Trace.  Since using the tool, Pupil Progress Meetings have been much more focused.  Teachers really do know where there are gaps in individual or group learning; no longer are children at a certain level all grouped together, even when their needs may still be widely disparate.  Children ARE being taught what THEY need to know, not what a generic banding level expects.

The second thing that I have been pleased with is the level of development I have seen since the initial stages.  At each meeting, colleagues from various settings would outline ways in which they would like Trace to be developed.  Some of these were generic, others more personal to that particular school.  What has continually been the case is that, once discussed, these changes have been embedded, and speedily so.  What was suggested one day was available to be used only a couple of weeks later.  This gives practitioners in the classroom the confidence to make suggestions about how they would like Trace to work for them, safe in the knowledge that their word is being taken into account, changes are being made.

But Trace does one step more.  With it being a web-based tool, each school’s Trace can be slightly different, adapted for the needs of the individual school.  The personal touch really does make a difference, because what works for one doesn’t always work for all.  The developers of Trace are aware of this and are willing to make the changes to match the school, where possible.

We are now in the position at Audley to examine the ‘Report’ section with a wider audience.  Senior Leaders have been using it regularly for a while, but we now feel that the time has come for the whole staff to fully understand all that Trace has to offer.  What’s more, in this ever-evolving world, I certainly know that their ideas, suggestions, development points can be used in order to ensure that all elements of Trace are being used effectively.

As a school, we are well on the way to a successful journey to ‘Life without Levels’ for which we have a lot to thank Trace for.  Because of the ease of use and flexibility around how it is used, any unease at changing a system – at ‘losing’ levels – has genuinely subsided.  The ‘Design, Assess, Re-Design’ opportunity that Trace champions is really aiding us to close the gap for individual learners, and make ‘Life after Levels’ a very exciting one!

For more information on Trace please visit